Thursday, 8 July 2010

Chairman’s Chat
by Gary Els, Canopus July 2010
monthly newsletter of the johannesburg centre of assa
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Those of us who enjoy spending hours viewing through an eyepiece, have to brave the
elements outdoors, and while summer is the most comfortable, there are the clouds and
seasonal rain that washes out many a good night's observing.

The problem is that best sky viewing is in winter, and while family and friends think you are
crazy, and at times we agree, some of the best objects are visible at this time of year.

Just take the number of objects that are visible in the southern sky in the early evening,
just too many to name that are waiting to fill an eyepiece.

While the Highveld is experiencing the lowest temperatures since 1994, this should not
deter us from taking advantage of moisture-free skies and hunting down those objects
we have not yet seen. So here are some tips to help in viewing at this time.

- Dress in layers, maybe starting with thermal underwear, always a good gift to receive.
I find a top with a hoodie is best, and together with a beanie it keeps the ears even
warmer;
- Wear good boots and warm socks, which are always something we tend to overlook,
until it’s too late and frozen feet soon put an end to viewing;
- Good gloves are important, but check out some hunting gloves that have a flap for
quickly removing your fingers for focusing. Chemical hand warms are cheap and
may help to revive cold hands;
- Stay out of the wind, as a mild breeze can have a wind chill factor of 5 degrees less
than the ambient temperature;
- Take breaks every hour or so and go inside and enjoy a hot mug of your favourite
observing liquid;
- A few short bursts of a hairdryer helps to get rid of dew on lenses, and could also help
to warm other extremities;
- Keep your green laser in your pocket so that it stays warm, as they simply don’t work if
they get too cold.

So if the soccer fans can endure hours in the cold, we can also view our favourite team
of sky objects with a little help from these cold weather tips.

Gary

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